3 Ways to Read Ender’s Game Books in Order by Orson Scott Card

I just finished watching the movie Ender’s Game for the second time and found myself wanting to revisit this epic series I read in high school. But I couldn’t remember the best way to read the Ender’s Game books in order.

Perhaps you’re like me.

You’ve seen the movie, and likely weren’t super impressed with it, but you know the book is epic. But you were young when you read it and would like to go through the series again with wiser and more experienced eyes.

Or maybe the movie was the vehicle that introduced you to the series in the first place.

Whether you’re new to Ender’s Game or are a veteran looking to reread the series, I’ve got at least one Ender’s Game reading order that’s right for you.

#1 Ender’s Game Books in Order of Publication

The first list of Ender’s Game books in order is in publication order. This reading order is perfect for anyone, whether you’re a new reader or a veteran.

This is how millions of readers discovered Ender and his story.

  1. Ender’s Game (1985)
  2. Speaker for the Dead (1986)
  3. Xenocide (1991)
  4. Children of the Mind (1996)
  5. Ender’s Shadow (1999)
  6. Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
  7. Shadow Puppets (2002)
  8. First Meetings (2003) (Novella)
  9. Shadow of the Giant (2005)
  10. A War of Gifts (2007) (Novella)
  11. Ender in Exile (2008)
  12. Shadows in Flight (2012)
  13. Earth Unaware (2012)
  14. Earth Afire (2013)
  15. Earth Awakens (2014)
  16. The Swarm (2016)
  17. Children of the Fleet (2017)
  18. The Hive (2019)
  19. The Last Shadow (2021)
  20. The Queens (TBA)

#2 Ender’s Game Books in Order by Series

The second way to read the Enger’s Game books in order is by series. This is best for the newcomer, but ideally could be read by veterans as well.

I’ve listed them in general order of chronology. We’ll cover the true chronological order next, because it mixes up the series.

Newcomers should begin with The Ender Quintet. Any true reading should always begin with the original: Ender’s Game. Where you go from there is up to you. I’d recommend Ender’s Shadow, and then go back and read the Formic Wars.

The final book in the Second Formic War is still being written, so as of this writing, that series is incomplete and should be saved for last.

The First Formic War

  1. Earth Unaware (2012)
  2. Earth Afire (2013)
  3. Earth Awakens (2014)

The Second Formic War

  1. The Swarm (2016)
  2. The Hive (2019)
  3. The Queens (TBA)

The Ender Quintet

The Ender Quintet is the original series. It’s conclusion is actually in a separate list as you’ll see down below under the section entitled “The Conclusion to the Ender Saga.”

  1. Ender’s Game (1985)
  2. Speaker for the Dead (1986)
  3. Xenocide (1991)
  4. Children of the Mind (1996)
  5. Ender in Exile (2008)

Ender’s Shadow Series

  1. Ender’s Shadow (1999)
  2. Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
  3. Shadow Puppets (2002)
  4. Shadow of the Giant (2005)
  5. Shadows in Flight (2012)

The Conclusion to the Ender Saga

This book has been separated out from a series because it is actually the conclusion of two different series: The Ender Quintet and Ender’s Shadow.

  1. The Last Shadow (2021)

Other Ender Stories

The first two books in this list are novellas. The last one was intended to be the first book in a new series, but that series was cancelled, so it serves as a stand-alone for now.

  1. First Meetings (2003) (Short Story Collection)
  2. A War of Gifts (2007) (Novella)
  3. Children of the Fleet (2017)

#3 Ender’s Game Books in Chronological Order

The final list of Ender’s Game books in order is chronological order.

I do not recommend this order for newcomers.

Chronological orders have a tendency to reveal details and spoil plot points. Not to mention that without proper worldbuilding from previous books, you may not understand details, lore, or major plot points.

New readers should choose one of the lists above. Chronological order is only for those choosing to reread the series.

  1. Earth Unaware
  2. Earth Afire
  3. Earth Awakens
  4. The Polish Boy (Short Story in First Meetings)
  5. Teacher’s Pest (Short Story in First Meetings)
  6. The Swarm
  7. The Hive
  8. The Queens (TBA)
  9. Ender’s Game
  10. Ender’s Shadow (Takes place during Ender’s Game)
  11. A War of Gifts (Novella) (Takes place during Ender’s Game)
  12. Children of the Fleet
  13. Shadow of the Hegemon
  14. Shadow Puppets
  15. Shadow of the Giant
  16. Ender in Exile (The beginning takes place during Shadow of the Hegemon through Shadow of the Giant)
  17. Shadows in Flight
  18. The Investment Counselor (Short Story in First Meetings)
  19. Speaker for the Dead
  20. Xenocide
  21. Children of the Mind
  22. The Last Shadow

Summary of Ender’s Game Books in Order

Now that we’ve looked at the three ways you can read the Ender’s Game books in order, let’s dive a little deeper and learn more about each of the books in the two main series.

Ender's Game Books in Order

Ender’s Game (Ender Quintet #1)

In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut―young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.

Speaker for the Dead Ender's Game

Speaker for the Dead (Ender Quintet #2)

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: The Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger War.

Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.

Xenocide Orson Scott Card

Xenocide (Ender Quintet #3)

The war for survival of the planet Lusitania will be fought in the heart of a child named Gloriously Bright.

On Lusitania, Ender found a world where humans and pequininos and the Hive Queen could all live together; where three very different intelligent species could find common ground at last. Or so he thought.

Lusitania also harbors the descolada, a virus that kills all humans it infects, but which the pequininos require in order to become adults. The Starways Congress so fears the effects of the descolada, should it escape from Lusitania, that they have ordered the destruction of the entire planet, and all who live there. The Fleet is on its way, a second xenocide seems inevitable.

Children of the Mind Orson Scott Card

Children of the Mind (Ender Quintet #4)

The planet Lusitania is home to three sentient species: the Pequeninos; a large colony of humans; and the Hive Queen, brought there by Ender. But once again the human race has grown fearful; the Starways Congress has gathered a fleet to destroy Lusitania.

Jane, the evolved computer intelligence, can save the three sentient races of Lusitania. She has learned how to move ships outside the universe, and then instantly back to a different world, abolishing the light-speed limit. But it takes all the processing power available to her, and the Starways Congress is shutting down the Net, world by world.

Soon Jane will not be able to move the ships. Ender’s children must save her if they are to save themselves.

Ender in Exile Ender's Game Books in Order

Ender in Exile (Ender Quintet #5)

In Ender’s Game, the world’s most gifted children were taken from their families and sent to an elite training academy. At Battle School, they learned combat, strategy, and secret intelligence to fight a dangerous war on behalf of those left on Earth. But they also learned some important and less definable lessons about life.

After the life-changing events of those years, these children―now teenagers―must leave the school and readapt to life in the outside world.

Having not seen their families or interacted with other people for years―where do they go now? What can they do?

Ender fought for humanity, but he is now reviled as a ruthless assassin. No longer allowed to live on Earth, he enters into exile. With his sister Valentine, he chooses to leave the only home he’s ever known to begin a relativistic―and revelatory―journey beyond the stars.

What happened during the years between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead? What did Ender go through from the ages of 12 through 35? The story of those years has never been told. Taking place 3000 years before Ender finally receives his chance at redemption in Speaker for the Dead, this is the long-lost story of Ender.

Ender's Shadow Ender's Game

Ender’s Shadow (The Shadow Series #1)

The human race is at War with the “Buggers,” an insect-like alien race. As Earth prepares to defend itself from total destruction at the hands of an inscrutable enemy, all focus is on the development of military geniuses who can fight such a war, and win.

The long distances of interstellar space have given hope to the defenders of Earth–they have time to train these future commanders up from childhood, forging them into an irresistible force in the high orbital facility called the Battle School. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin was not the only child in the Battle School; he was just the best of the best.

In Ender’s Shadow, Card tells the story of another of those precocious generals, the one they called Bean–the one who became Ender’s right hand, part of his team, in the final battle against the Buggers. Bean’s past was a battle just to survive.

His success brought him to the attention of the Battle School’s recruiters, those people scouring the planet for leaders, tacticians, and generals to save Earth from the threat of alien invasion. Bean was sent into orbit, to the Battle School. And there he met Ender….

Shadow of the Hegemon Ender's Game Books in Order

Shadow of the Hegemon (The Shadow Series #2)

The War is over, won by Ender Wiggin and his team of brilliant child-warriors. The enemy is destroyed, the human race is saved. Ender himself refuses to return to the planet, but his crew has gone home to their families, scattered across the globe. The battle school is no more.

But with the external threat gone, the Earth has become a battlefield once more. The children of the Battle School are more than heroes; they are potential weapons that can bring power to the countries that control them. One by one, all of Ender’s Dragon Army are kidnapped. Only Bean escapes; and he turns for help to Ender’s brother Peter.

Peter Wiggin, Ender’s older brother, has already been manipulating the politics of Earth from behind the scenes. With Bean’s help, he will eventually rule the world.

Shadow Puppets Orson Scott Card

Shadow Puppets (The Shadow Series #3)

Earth and its society have been changed irrevocably in the aftermath of Ender Wiggin’s victory over the Formics. The unity forced upon the warring nations by an alien enemy has shattered. Nations are rising again, seeking territory and influence, and most of all, seeking to control the skills and loyalty of the children from the Battle School.

But one person has a better idea. Peter Wiggin, Ender’s older, more ruthless, brother, sees that any hope for the future of Earth lies in restoring a sense of unity and purpose. And he has an irresistible call on the loyalty of Earth’s young warriors. With Bean at his side, the two will reshape our future.

Shadow Puppets is the continuing story of Bean and Petra, and the rest of Ender’s Dragon Army, as they take their places in the new government of Earth.

Shadow of the Giant Ender's Game Books in Order

Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series #4)

Bean’s past was a battle just to survive. He first appeared on the streets of Rotterdam, a tiny child with a mind leagues beyond anyone else. He knew he could not survive through strength; he used his tactical genius to gain acceptance into a children’s gang, and then to help make that gang a template for success for all the others. He civilized them, and lived to grow older. Then he was discovered by the recruiters for the Battle School.

For Earth was at war – a terrible war with an inscrutable alien enemy. A war that humanity was near to losing. But the long distances of interstellar space has given hope to the defenders of Earth – they had time to train military geniuses up from childhood, forging them into an irresistible force in the high-orbital facility called the Battle School.

That story is told in two books, Orson Scott Card’s beloved classic Ender’s Game, and its parallel, Ender’s Shadow. Now, in Shadow of the Giant, Bean’s story continues.

Bean was the smallest student at the Battle School, but he became Ender Wiggins’ right hand, Since then he has grown to be a power on Earth. He served the Hegemon as strategist and general in the terrible wars that followed Ender’s defeat of the alien empire attacking Earth.

Now he and his wife Petra yearn for a safe place to build a family – something he has never known – but there is nowhere on Earth that does not harbor his enemies – old enemies from the days in Ender’s Jeesh, new enemies from the wars on Earth.

To find security, Bean and Petra must once again follow in Ender’s footsteps. They must leave Earth behind, in the control of the Hegemon, and look to the stars.

Shadows in Flight Ender's Game

Shadow in Flight (The Shadow Series #5)

At the end of Shadow of the Giant, Bean flees to the stars with three of his children–the three who share the engineered genes that gave him both hyper-intelligence and a short, cruel physical life.

The time dilation granted by the speed of their travel gives Earth’s scientists generations to seek a cure, to no avail. In time, they are forgotten–a fading ansible signal speaking of events lost to Earth’s history. But the Delphikis are about to make a discovery that will let them save themselves, and perhaps all of humanity in days to come.

For there in space before them lies a derelict Formic colony ship. Aboard it, they will find both death and wonders–the life support that is failing on their own ship, room to grow, and labs in which to explore their own genetic anomaly and the mysterious disease that killed the ship’s colony.

The Last Shadow Ender's Game Books in Order

The Last Shadow (Conclusion to the Ender Saga)

One planet.

Three sapient species living peacefully together.

And one deadly virus that could wipe out every world in the Starways Congress, killing billions.

Is the only answer another great Xenocide?

Conclusion to Ender’s Game Books in Order

Which of the ways to read the Ender’s Game books in order are you going to choose? Will you read them in publication order, series order, or chronological order?

Looking for more books in order?

Check out this list of Halo books in order.

4 thoughts on “3 Ways to Read Ender’s Game Books in Order by Orson Scott Card

  1. Before i read wakers, thoughts on where it and the new trilogy will fit into the enderverse (i have read everything else, multiple times). I just found out about it and am excited to read but may reread a couple around it so it is all fresh.

        1. Ah yes, I’d forgotten about that book. To the best of my research, it does not appear connected to the world of Ender’s Game. Only time will tell if it links in somewhere, but an early review I read makes no mention of any connections. It looks like a YA Dystopian.

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